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Cocker, David (1831–1907)

from North Western Advocate (Tas)

Quite a shock was caused in Devonport yesterday afternoon when it became known that Mr David Cocker was no more. Deceased had been visibly failing for many months, and had been in feeble health, but he was about less than a week ago, and had only been a day or so confined in bed. He was seen by his medical attendant on Tuesday, when he was in a weak state, and yesterday afternoon the end came rather suddenly, death being due to heart failure. Sincere regret was expressed on all hands at the removal of such an estimable citizen.

Mr Cocker was 76 years of age in September last, having been born in 1830 in Dewsbury in Yorkshire, England. He came to Tasmania as a young man, and could rightly be termed one of the pioneers of the Mersey district. He was interested in the coal mines that were being worked in the Tarleton and Don district.

Mr David Cocker first arrived in the Mersey early in 1852 in company with Mr W. B. Dean, of Launceston. In conjunction with his brother (Benjamin Cocker) and Mr Dean he imported the first steam sawmill plant erected in the district. Mr Cocker then returned to Melbourne, but in August of the same year came back to the Mersey, and took charge of the mill, which was erected a little distance from the banks of the Mersey River, and conducted it under the style of the Romney Sawmill Company (the proprietors being Messrs Cocker and Dean). They introduced the first vessels of moderate tonnage into the Mersey, purchasing the John Hull, the Freebridge, John Massey, and the Wave, besides, as occasion required, chartering others. A few years later the mill was sold, and Mr Cocker returned to Victoria and engaged in the general provision trade, supplying the goldfields, etc, for a period of eighteen months until the great collapse in the early fifties. He once more returned to the Mersey, and commenced business as general storekeeper at Spreyton, and at the same time entered into farming pursuits. In about 1868 he closed his store at Spreyton, and went to Launceston, where he had charge of the outside shipping business of the T.S.N. Company (under the agency of the late George Fisher). Mr Cocker resigned his position with the company in 1884, and embarked in business on his own account as a shipping, forwarding, and customs agent. Some years after, his health failing, he transferred his business to his son (Mr B. D. Cocker), and removed to Devonport, where after a little while he once more started as a produce, customs, and general agent, continuing until 1890, when he gave it over to his son (Mr William B. Cocker), and retired from active business life.

Mr Cocker was full of reminiscences of the old days, and he relates frequently an adventure he had in 1853, when he was stuck up by Dalton and Kelly; the notorious bushrangers, who afterwards suffered the extreme penalty of the law.

When Formby and Torquay were amalgamated into the town of Devonport, deceased was one of the first members for West Devonport, and on the resignation of Mr W. Aikenhead he was appointed chairman of the Town Board, which position he occupied during the troublous times over the construction of the water supply. He retired from the board for several years, but in 1901 again sought a seat, and was returned at the head of the poll, finally retiring from that body in 1903. He was for some years a member of the Mersey Marine Board, and on the decease of the Hon J. H. McCall he was appointed Master Warden, retiring from the board a short time before it was converted from a nominee to an elective body. Mr Cocker rendered valuable assistance on the Board of Advice, and filled its chair for a few years, and his interests at Barrington taking him frequently into that district, he was well able to represent the country district on the board, continuing to do so until his last illness. On July 1, 1889, he was made a justice of the peace for the Mersey district, and was one of the most regular attendants on the bench, where his integrity was specially appreciated, and in his methodical style he carefully noted the proceedings of each sitting he attended. On the death of Mr W. Aikenhead, M.H.A., he was appointed the Government nominee on the Mersey Licensing bench, and, like that gentleman, was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce. He held a large interest in the North Mount Farrell Mining Co., and as a director visited the mine, and it was thought that over exertion on the trip at his advanced years hastened the stroke which he sustained in December, 1905. A staunch and respected member of the Methodist Church he filled loyally all the offices a layman could hold, and nowhere will his absence be missed so sorely as by the local church, of which he was such a regular attendant.

Mr Cocker married twice, and by his first wife he had five sons and six daughters, who are all grown to maturity; his second wife was the widow of the late Mr George Best, another of the pioneers of the Mersey.

The funeral will take place to-morrow afternoon.

Original publication

  • North Western Advocate (Tas), 31 January 1907, p 3

Other Obituaries for David Cocker

Additional Resources

  • funeral, North Western Advocate (Tas), 2 February 1907, p 4

Citation details

'Cocker, David (1831–1907)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cocker-david-13662/text24446, accessed 27 June 2019.

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